August 24. Today is my father’s birthday. I was with him on his birthday last year, and while driving the 500 miles back home, I knew in my heart that it was the last time I was going to see him alive. He passed away that September.
Only my dad, John Dieball, could have lived 79 years in a body that had such serious heart issues. A heart attack at 29, his doctors and surgeons said it was a miracle he remained so vibrant for another 50 years. He had a brilliant and curious mind. And he lived a passionate and purposeful life.
Have you read Bronnie Ware’s “Regrets of the Dying?” She cared for patients during the last few weeks of their lives. When reflecting their time here, many had regrets or expressed what they would have done differently. Bronnie noticed five common themes and wrote about them on her blog in 2009. The post went viral, launching her into an entirely new career of writing and inspirational speaking.
Looking at the list, I realized that my father came to the end of his life having absolutely no regrets.
REGRET OF THE DYING 1: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
From a very early age it was clear that my dad was going to live the life of HIS choosing. At age 13, he was accepted into the music program at the University of Detroit. He was continually at odds with the instructors who insisted he only play classical music. He didn’t care what they expected of him, he preferred classic jazz.
Over the span of his lifetime, he started a company, traveled to 45 countries, organized countless events, including one of the most respected classic jazz festivals, threw legendary parties, and gave his time and money to numerous charities. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, friend and humanitarian. He filled his life with adventure and took us along for the ride.
REGRET OF THE DYING 2: “I wish I didn’t work so hard.”
My dad worked hard at work he loved so it wasn’t “work” to him. He was a master strategist…something that allowed him to foresee trends or anticipate market changes. There was a pad of paper and a pen next to him at all times and he was constantly jotting down notes to himself. His mind never stopped working and he was continually thinking several steps ahead. It’s what made him so good at running a successful business. And success wasn’t fully defined as “making a profit” as he cared the most about the people who worked for him.
REGRET OF THE DYING 3: “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
It was as natural as breathing for my father to express his feelings through action. He was always looking out for the people he loved. He had this uncanny ability to know what we needed at any given time. Sometimes it came through as words of encouragement. Often, it was an unexpected act or special surprise that left you knowing that you were loved beyond words.
REGRET OF THE DYING 4: “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
My dad was a master at entertaining (my mom too!). From simple BBQs to elegant sit down dinners, he was such a gracious, fun host. (Making people feel welcome is in my parent’s DNA.) No matter what the occasion, everyone always ended up around my dad playing the Steinway. I have such fond memories of generations of friends and family laughing, acting silly, and singing along to our favorite ‘oldies’.
REGRET OF THE DYING 5: “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”
That birthday weekend, the one that was my last with him, the two of us were sitting on the sofa—no one else nearby. He was in his pajamas and bathrobe, very tired from his weakening heart. Peacefully, he looked at me with a contented smile and said, “I’m very happy. I have had a great life.”
Oh yes, dad, you have. And you’ve made our lives great, too. What a legacy he leaves with us all—to make sure that we come to the end of our lives with “no regrets.”
*The 5 Regrets of the Dying I listed here are taken from Bronnie Ware’s original post.